blogs

New feature on iaslash: News filter

I've added a News filter page that lists the places I go daily to look for IA, HCI and usability articles and resources. Includes some headlines from news sites, and canned searches on sites like findarticle.com. You can find the link to News filter in the right column of iaslash under "Recommended reading".

Mac OSX

I got my Mac OS X final release disks from the UPS guy yesterday. Whoa I can start having fun with my mac again. It's like having a completely new computer and still having my trusted Mac apps available -- although I may be abandonning them when OS X versions become available. Right now I'm spending my time on macosx.com and stepwise.com to figure out how to install tomcat (to serve jsp) and mysql. I hope to have Apache's Coccon as well. Personally, I like having to learn a new interface, and I like the Black Cave terminal window. It is a boon to power users to be able to run stuff like shell scripts and stuff. In the end we'll all be using Unix. As a Bell Labs person, I hope to see the day when this really becomes true, and when using Micro apps becomes more of an alternative than the standard. The NYTimes had an article on OS X today, written by David Pogue of course.

Information Architecture standards?

This site may be one to watch. As far as I can tell from SIG-IA, someone has taken it upon himself to create a group to develop some sort of standards or best practices for Information Architects. IAStandards.org's mission, iastandards.org was created as a center for awareness, coordination, and focusing of the efforts of members of the Information Architecture community interested in the development of open standards for information architecture and related aspects of web development. Topics to be explored include notations, processes, and tools to support the increasingly complex work of the profession. This site aims to give direction to the enthusiasm, shown recently in mailing lists and at conferences, of practicing Information Architects discovering their common connections and challenges while seeking collective enlightenment. Additionally, this site is intended to serve as an open laboratory for exploring IA-related topics in site development. Thus, as the site evolves, artifacts and processes used in its development should serve as real-world examples of common IA best practices. This should be interesting. Currently the bulk of the discussion on this site is focussing on the label "Standards".

Informatica: Faster alerting from post-usage data analysis tool

I found this article on Interactive Week interesting because our programming staff has been working on using clustering to pre-filter data before it is indexed. We have not looked at data analysis from post-transaction perspective before, except in doing log analysis using WebTrends and some visualization tools, but the concept of doing more granular data analysis with a tool like Informatica is compelling. Informatica, while focussed on commerce/financial side of transactions also integrates with other CRM data. "Connectors already exist between PowerCenter 5 and PeopleSoft, SAP and Siebel Systems Enterprise Resource Planning applications, which contain customer relationship data. The $200,000 PowerCenter software may also receive eXtensible Markup Language-tagged data or clickstream data and send it to an analytical application." Apparently, with the acquisition of Zimba, now it will also send alerts via the Internet or mobile devices.

Forrester brief: Maximizing Usability Testing Benefits

New brief on Usability at Forrester. Because sometimes we have to educate our clients and employers and they may not know from Spool or Nielsen -- Forrester is the language many of them speak.

Beyond The Browser: Tog and Jakob discuss the future of information apps on the Internet

Bruce Tognazzini and Jakob Neilson takl about the problems with today's page-based browser in Beyond The Browser [interactive week]. They foretell a future where many distinct applications are added to take advantage of the Internet for offering information access. They talk about a lot of applications that extend the Net, including peer to peer apps like instant messenging and the many Napster-type apps. They mention Internet broadcasting and set top boxes as a means of suggesting, I think, that the hardware and applications that need to be designed, need to take the form of specific information needs. Just don't bring back PointCast or the Windows Active Desktop. They also talk about needing better ways of visualizing the information space on the Internet (not just the web), but don't offer any vision on where that would come from or how that may take shape. This, to me is a big question, as it must be for other IA's out there. People that work on large scale Web projects have probably been realizing the need for better collaboration and information access applications that work over IP for a long time. Working on an intranet, you see that failures to afford access or collaboration can result in decreased productivity and I guess the financial types would argue decreased Return on Investment (ROI). I find the argument valid that there is a great need for many new distinct applications that will fill the gaps where the browsers have failed. I wonder, though, how that will be realized when nearly every standard business application that sits on my PC desktop at work comes from Micro. [Sigh]

Humanizing your helpdesk: Initiating Helpdesk/CRM sessions online

I've been looking a lot at Helpdesk, CRM, and trouble ticket tracking software solutions. I am trying to come up with a matrix of functionalities and features offered by some of the off-the-shelf solutions so I can make recommendations for a project I am working on. Here is what I found with the help of some friends on a several discussion groups.

Duke University survey of Live online reference solutionshttp://www.lib.duke.edu/reference/liveonlineref.htm

Broughton, Kelly. Our Experiment in Online, Real-Time Reference. InfoToday. http://www.infotoday.com/cilmag/apr01/broughton.htm

24/7 Reference project http://www.247ref.org

Library of Congress Collaborative Digital Reference Service (CDRS) http://www.loc.gov/rr/digiref/

Live reference list http://groups.yahoo.com/group/livereference

LSSI http://www.lssi.com/virtual/

San Francisco and Monterey Bay area Libraries' Q&A Cafe http://qandacafe.org

Webhelp http://www.webhelp.com

Bad things shouldn't happen to good websites

Just picked up a link to this white paper series from Watchfire via a PR News Wire article: Watchfire Launches Bad Things Shouldn't Happen to Good Websites Program to Heighten Awareness of Common Website Design and Usability Pitfalls. Leading Internet companies Akamai, Interwoven and NetGenesis to collaborate with Watchfire to produce educational white paper series. March 21 /PRNewswire/ The first paper: "Setting the Scene for Web Experience Management with foreword by Creative Good." This white paper discusses how Web Experience Management closes the Web Experience Gap. It explores the critical issues that have created the gap; why itís critical to address these issues; and how Web Experience Management solutions and other complementary technologies bridge the gap.

Builder's "Church of Usability"

I don't know about proclaiming things gospel and having a ten commandments of anything. Builder'sChurch of Usability elevates the word of usability gurus to gospel. Hmmm.

Dead fragments -- usability of text

In Just Say No to Dead Fragments , Nick Usborne urges us not to use "dead fragments". His definition of a dead fragment? "A dead fragment of text is what's left after a usability expert has had his or her way with some perfectly good copy." I guess what a lot of do is distill a lot of text and labels to the bare minimum of words in an effort to make the text more easily digestable. Often pages that become data-dense demand quick and easy recognition by users, and that is done by being clear and economic with our words. I liken the way we create dead fragments to the way you can communicate a very complex thought or feeling with just a few words in a haiku. You don't have to be verbose to communicate your message eloquently and effectively.

Scopeware: Knowledge management tool introduces new information-use metaphors

I picked this story up from The Standard. David Galertner's Mirror Worlds Technologies announced the commercial release of ScopeWare, a new information management tool that sits on the desktop of your computer and indexes, displays and allows searching of all of your data in any format. As a knowledge management tool, I find it interesting. I played with Altavista's personal search for while, and still found that organizing my data on my hard rive, in my bookmarks, and in my email folders was easiest using folders hierarchicaly arranged by subject/topic, project, etc. The metaphor that ScopeWare uses is likened to a personal journal. The tool displays your data in chronologically arranged "streams" on the desktop like a journal of your days' activities. They posit that people think in terms of "content and time, rather than file name or location." For me, that statement rings quite true, but I would argue that the physical arrangement of my folders (file name and location) maps to my internal cognitive mapping of the content; and that serves me fine. But, time IS another issue, and their offering seems not only to add that fourth dimension to your information-use experience, but it also integrates all of the information you use (email, web sites, documents) into one interface. While we're on the topic of interface, I wonder what impact their "time-streaming" metaphor will have on us interface designers? Will have to leave that discussion to a later thread after I've digested the concept a bit more.

Move over, Google. Make way, Yahoo. Meet Lynn, the live, online reference librarian

I had to post the link to this article I picked up from lisnews.com.The Mercury News published this article about some Bay area libraries banding together to offer reference research assistance online. The idea is that anyone can get real time reference answers from someone operating the reference desk 24/7, with the back-end being driven by librarians that are part of the consortium staffing a pc somewhere. (See related site: http://247ref.org/) I think this is an excellent idea, that companies have latched on to with CRM services powered by human click and liveperson. I am working on a team right now to explore combined online reference desk and technical CRM functionalities that will aid in searching and will build FAQ's on the fly. I thought this might be a relevant path to follow if anyone is interested in FAQ's and the like as an aspect of helping users make sense of site content.

3 clicks or more?

Eric Schaffer, CEO, Human Factors International, Inc., talks about the 3-click thing in the article, Web Banking: Quickness and Usability Keys to Successful Web Sites. The topic of 3-clicks versus more clicks coupled with good organization and labeling has been getting some mileage on CHI-WEB, with lots of refereces to the good-scent concept of Jared Spool. The Spool concept contrasts with the 3-click concept, by suggesting that users will follow any number of links to navigate to their destination, so long as the steps toward that end point have a good scent -- i.e. the steps convey in a clear, consistent and understandable way that they are on their way to the thing they need.

Dreamweaver 4, Wireframing extension

I started playing with the wireframing extension available for Dreamweaver 4, with the hopes that it would speed up the process of actually creating the wireframes in a tool like Illustrator. I have to say that I am loving this extension a lot! The resulting wireframes I've created so far are quite decent, if somewhat simplistic. It's nice to see that we can now quickly mock up Web click-throughs without the effort of making image maps of exported gif files. Combined with the new image tracing feature, you now have a compelling reason to make DW a standard in your IA toolbox. To grab this extension, go to the Dreamweaver Exchange and search for the term "wireframing".

IA malapropism appearing in the article "Learning from the SIMS"

This is a snippet from letter I wrote to the author of this article. I picked up the link to the author from a poster on the SIG-IA List. It is rather unfortunate that you misappropriated the term "Information Architecture" in the article titled "Learning from the SIMS" to make your case against the building of environments on the web. IA is not a concept rooted in the metaphor of structure as it relates to the larger environment of the Internet and the construction of its nodes. IA is a process involved with the organization of information within information-use environments such as Web sites and applications. Here is an excerpt from a white paper published by Argus Associates, an Information Architecture consultancy: Information Architecture: The art and science of organizing information to help people effectively fulfill their information needs. Information architecture involves investigation, analysis, design and implementation. Top-down and bottom-up are the two main approaches to developing information architectures; these approaches inform each other and are often developed simultaneously. (source: http://argus-acia.com/white_papers/iaglossary.html) The process of Information Architecture was not widely introduced until recent years -- the term being defined for most Web consulting companies by the O'Reilly Polar Bear book, "Information Architecture for the World Wide Web" by Rosenfeld and Morville. So your statement that:

    In the first flush of Internet excitement, companies spent a lot of money on "information architecture."
is largely wrong and unfounded given the misuse of the term. I only bother to make this statement because you introduce your article with the above statement which is rather bold. It is most unfortunate because statements such as the above may plant a seed of misunderstanding in the heads of business folks who may come across this article.

Testing the Web Site Usability Waters

Darlene Fitcher's article, Testing the Web Site Usability Waters discusses three usability tests -- pluralistic walkthrough, heuristic evaluation, and task-based testing -- that provide examples of different approaches to ascertaining what users actually like. This is an excellent article that I am using not only to introduce the idea of usability testing for Web sites to my colleagues, but I also find myself referring to it for guidance when I am looking for some high-level quotes to justify usability in the development process.

Eyetracking study of readers of news via Web sites

Got this link from a discussion group to a study conducted by Stanford University and The Poynter Institute -- Eye Tracking Online News -- using eye tracking to observe how users read Web news sites. The study used eyetracking because it "... tells us more precisely what the eyes take in than do survey questions that depend on recall. Exactly where do Internet news readers go to catch their news? Which stories do they read, which skim, which ignore? Do they read only headlines and briefs, or full articles? If they hyperlink to a related story, do they return to the original site? Learning the answers to questions such as these would, we hoped, begin to give us clues to Internet news reading behavior that could subsequently be correlated with civic action."

Lessons in Effective E-mail Design

Email usability testing is not something you hear much about. Lance Arthur talks about creating effective email messages that communicate your message in this article on digitrends.net.

Low-income Web surfers proliferate

This snippet from the NY Times Technology Briefing quotes the stats from the Nielson/NetRatings indicating that numbers for low-income Web surfers with annual incomes of less than $25,000 a year rose 46 percent over the past year. Perhaps there is some validity in Jakob Nielsen's position that as the Internet grows and reaches broader segments of the population, usability will become even more important to those wishing to keep from excluding these users.

Information Anxiety2: A Guidebook for the Information Age

Webreference has a review of Richard Saul Wurman's "Information Anxiety2". Unlike the book's 1989 predecessor, the pre-Web "Information Anxiety", 2's discussions and solutions relate to ALL media regardless of technology.

XML feed